Unlocking the Potential of Open Science in Kenya: A Path to Transparent Research and Knowledge Sharing

Universities and research institutions have been encouraged to adopt open access publishing, open data sharing and open educational resources.

In her speech, which was delivered by Dr. Roselida Owuor, the Deputy Director of Research in Education, Science, and Technology in Kenya, Dr. Beatrice Muganda Inyangala the Principal Secretary, the State Department for Higher Education and Research advocated for open science practices to foster transparency and accessibility in higher education.

“The State Department wishes to encourage universities and research institutions to adopt open access publishing, open data sharing and open educational resources”.

On Wednesday, September 20th, a noteworthy event took place in Nairobi, Kenya, where the Training Center in Communication Africa (TCC Africa), in collaboration with The East African Science and Technology Commission (EASTECO) and the Public Library of Science (PLOS), Kenya Libraries and Information services Consortium (KLISC) organized the Kenya National Open Science Dialogue for Academic and Research Institutions. This significant gathering was hosted by the University of Nairobi and featured the introduction of a visionary agenda by the State Department for Higher Education.

This agenda highlighted a strong commitment to advancing open access publishing, fostering open data sharing, and promoting the use of open educational resources within the academic community.

Dr. Roselida Owuor, the Deputy Director of Research in Education, Science, and Technology in Kenya.

“The State department plays a critical role in allocating funding and resources to research findings by aligning funding criteria with open science principles”. She added by embracing open science principles, the State Department has the potential to establish an environment conducive to transparent research practices.

The event whose aim is to mitigate challenges on Implementation of Open Science mandates in universities, brought together stakeholders, academics, researchers, policymakers, and students to discuss open science practices.

Professor Stephen Kiama, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nairobi, characterized the Open Science Dialogue as a gathering that symbolizes a strong commitment to the relentless pursuit of knowledge, innovation, and the advancement of science.

“Our commitment to research excellence at the University of Nairobi has yielded remarkable results, and our dedication to research remains steadfast,” he affirmed. “Through the adoption of open science, our researchers and students have experienced increased visibility, collaborative opportunities, and access to a global audience.”

This has enabled the University to identify the challenges in the line of open science, defining a road map for Kenya’s National open science initiatives and enhance education awareness.

Professor Kiama urged everyone to share their ideas and discoveries for the future of science and research.

Joy Owango, the Executive Director at the Training Center in Communication (TCC Africa), raised an important question about how open science will bring benefit universities and researchers, while also highlighting the pivotal role that TCC plays in this context.

She explained, “Our advocacy for open science stems from the recognition that research can be a costly. However, open science provides us with affordable access to crucial infrastructure and resources, most notably, for free. This support is invaluable for nurturing our knowledge economy.”

In essence, Joy Owango underscores the economic advantages and knowledge-sharing potential that open science brings to the academic world, especially to universities and students.

Joy Owango, the Executive Director TCC Africa.

Dr Sylvance Okoth, chief executive and accounting officer of EASTECO in Kigali, Rwanda, addressed the experiences on the ongoing Open Science stakeholder engagement in Africa, not forgetting what necessitated the inclusion of Open Science in the regional STI policy. He also highlighted the challenges that have been undertaken while addressing open science in East Africa partner states.

“We at the regional level are in support of this not blindly because its our duty to direct its our duty to guide” he said.

Dr Sylvance Okoth, chief executive and accounting officer of EASTECO in Kigali, Rwanda.

UNESCO defines open science as an inclusive construct that combines various movements and practices aiming to make full multilingual scientific knowledge openly available, accessible and reusable for everyone to increase scientific collaborations and sharing information for the benefit of science and society, and open the process of scientific knowledge, creation evaluation and communicate to societal actors beyond the traditional scientific community.

In Kenya, the Kenya Libraries and Information Services Consortium (KLISC) has been a proponent of the open science initiative. KLISC has championed open science adoption by spearheading the development of institutional repositories in 38 member institutions.

These repositories serve as platforms for making research outputs openly accessible. KLISC also supports member institutions in establishing and registering open-access journals through the Open Journal Systems (OJS) Platform.

Dr. Peninah Musangi, Head Librarian at Amref International University and Treasurer at KLISC, highlighted the consortium’s efforts, stating, “We conducted training sessions in five regions of Kenya, where member institutions were invited to learn about the OJS platform. Several institutions have successfully established and registered their journals as a result of this initiative.”

Dr. David Muthaka, Deputy Commission Secretary for Planning, Research, and Innovation at the Commission for University Education, emphasized the challenges faced and the role of universities in advancing the open science mandate. He stressed the importance of fostering collaboration and partnerships between universities and research institutions to promote open science and data practices while addressing the challenges associated with implementing open science mandates in universities.

Roheena Anand, Executive Director for Global Publishing Development at Public Library of Science (PLOS), discussed the benefits of open science for research, researchers, and institutions. She underlined the transformative potential of open science in facilitating broader and more equitable access to scientific knowledge.

But why open science? Prof. Joseph Muliaro Wafula, Chair of the Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA) Kenya, offered insights into the rationale behind open science. He explained that open science allows others to build upon and expand prior work without duplicating efforts. Prof. Wafula also emphasized the need to revitalize citizen science, a crucial component of open science. He stressed the role of media in making citizen science accessible to people in various languages, including vernacular languages, to ensure wider participation and engagement. “We aim to reintroduce citizen science and invite people to join us in understanding, scrutinizing, and applying open science concepts,” he noted.

During the panel discussion, the challenges hindering Kenya’s adoption of open science policies were addressed. These challenges included issues related to legal and regulatory frameworks, awareness gaps, ethical and privacy concerns, and the importance of keeping platforms updated with current content.

The collective efforts of stakeholders in Kenya’s academic and research community, along with strategic initiatives and collaborations, aim to overcome these challenges and promote open science practices for the benefit of all.

Prof. Stephen Kiama, Vice Chancellor University of Nairobi.

Maryann Muganda is a Features writer who specializes in writing about culture with a bias for telling stories surrounding women's issues.

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